Yakety Yak

There were significant changes that occurred in women’s clothing styles between the war years of the 1940s and the 1950s. The conservative, tailored, sobriety of the earlier decade gave way to a lush glamour in the later one.  This was largely due to the influence of the French couturier Christian Dior whose fashion house helped to put Paris firmly back at the center of the fashion world in the post-war years beginning in 1947 with the introduction of his first collection Corolle, or the botanical term “corolla”, translated as a “circlet of flower petals” in English. Dubbed the “New Look” by Carmel Snow editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar magazine Dior’s silhouettes captured the imaginations of fashionable women. Although there was initial push back from some segments of the market, i.e. those women who preferred shorter skirts and fewer strictures in styling, Dior’s ultra-feminine, wasp-waisted, voluptuous designs came to define the world of women’s fashions for much of the 1950s.

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Please scroll through the timeline below.

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  • One-piece Swimsuits

    Although two-piece suits continued to be worn on America’s beaches, there was a definite resurgence of the one-piece.

    The new-look dresses employed lots of body shaping features. From Boned bustier-style bodices, corseting, and padding to emphasizing the “right” curves. These styles found their way into women’s bathing suits one way or another.

  • Strapless Trend

    Marilyn Monroe, a movie star of the era, adapted the one-piece strapless bathing suit. As a result, women jumped on the train and followed the trend.

  • Magazine Covers

    General interest publications less frequently employed beach themes on their covers in the 1950s. When they did, the covers showed women as confident and beautiful while men as somewhat hapless characters.

  • Jantzen's "Daredevil" style

    Jantzen’s new groundbreaking men’s swimsuit was introduced. The style was named the “daredevil”. As seen in this ad, It featured openings between the waist and the legs on each side at the hips. The front and back of the trunks were held together by bands of fabric in a crisscross pattern.

  • Beach Towels

    Beach towels in the 1950s still did not provide many opportunities for self-expression. The Cannon Towels advertisement here shows that stripes and solid colors continued to be a trend.

  • Glimmer for Glamour

    This Jantzen Swimwear advertisement not only makes the bling the subject of the copy but also makes shape-insurance a key factor in selecting the suit. The ads and pop-culture during the era influenced women of all ages to look a certain way. These ads focused on convincing women that their suits would transform them.

  • Colorful Swimwear

    Men’s swimwear became more colorful and playful in the 1950s. Trunks in solids, plaids, stripes, and patterns were common.

  • First Commercial Pocket Radio

    Texas Instruments, in collaboration with IDEA Corporation, announced the first commercial transistor pocket radio. Here you can see the newspaper advertising for The Regency TR-1 Transistor Radio, The San Bernardino County Sun, December 19, 1954

  • Matching Sets

    A far more popular arrival on the beach during the decade was open structures with matching prints of trunks, a shirt, and a light jacket. Manufacturers called these sets by different names. McGregor marketed them as “sun sets”, Catalina called them “sport sets”. Jantzen named them “cabana set” and teamed them up with matching swimwear for women.

  • To Catch a Thief

    Have you seen this movie? If you have, you must remember the iconic beach scene depicting what a regular day at the beach on the French Riviera looked like.

  • Cat-eyed Sunglasses

    The style of women’s sunglasses that most people associate with the 1950s is “cat-eye” shaped. As you can see the ones here in the Foster Grant print ad.

  • Variety of Styles

    Many other styles were available for women and men to choose from.

  • Men's Sunglasses

    The most popular styles of sunglasses for men during the decade were the aviator and the new “wayfarer” created by Ray•Ban

  • Yakety Yak

  • Beach Footwear

    Women’s beach sandals became simpler, sleeker, and elegant than they had been in the 1940s. They now wore foot coverings less frequently when on the sand. Like women, men were also rarely seen wearing shoes at the beach.

  • Beach Accessories

    New items, such as the portable radio, thermoses, and, of course, bags and totes of all kinds started becoming common on the beach for the first time ever.

  • Portable Radio

    RCA Victor Portable Tube Radio

    Model B-411 Superheterodyne

  • Beach Hats

    Beach hats were still popular, as a result, the variety was much wider than the earlier decades of the century. Here you can see the May 1959 cover of the French fashion magazine Elle.